M4 smart motorway roadworks in Berkshire to use automatic cone placing vehicle

The M4 smart motorway roadworks will be using a new clever vehicle – which will put out cones by itself. Normally, workers were on the back of a truck dropping and picking up the cones themselves. However, a new vehicle has been produced and tested which will do all of that for them, and is about to undergo further testing on the M4 smart motorway works in Berkshire.

Developed by Highways England and a group of industry experts, the vehicle avoids the need for two people to manually lift and drop the cones in almost all weathers. With traffic rushing past, the bulk of this work is undertaken at night with the workers lifting as much as 10 tonnes of equipment per shift.

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The automated cone laying vehicles, which could be in use by the end of the year, will be operated solely by the driver therefore improving safety and freeing up two workers to carry out other tasks. Highways England Head of Lean and Continuous Improvement Martin Bolt, who oversees the project, said: “The implications of these vehicles in protecting the safety of workers are immense and we are delighted that testing is progressing so well.

By taking the human element out of laying cones we are eliminating one of the greatest risks for road workers.

Highways England vehicles which automatically put cones out

“We have received a lot of support from the industry as a whole for the automated vehicle and we are now getting some very positive feedback from those workers who have been trialling the Highways Care prototype on the live roads network. “If this testing proves as successful as we anticipate it will, motorists could be spotting more of these automated cone laying vehicles on the roads by the end of the year.” To date, experts have struggled to identify a suitable method of placing and removing cones that doesn’t have an impact on workers due to the twisting of the body required or a vehicle that does not require any workers on the back.

It is hoped the automated cone laying vehicles will tackle this issue.

Highways England criteria stipulates that not only must the machines offer a safer method for highways workers, they must be safe for all road users and pose no further risk to traffic.

The new cone laying vehicles must be able to lay/collect at least 400 cones at a rate of one every 10 seconds

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